I just want to dive a little deeper. Mgold has a good point. During the 90's American cars were almost all disasters on wheels. The Contour, Mystique, Grand Am's, Stratus's, Sebring's, Corsica's, Taurus's, Sable's, the you name front wheel drive american product and you'll see a disaster. I can't think of one at this moment that I could appreciate. That's also the time for the great foreign trend beginning. I'm pretty sure that for most of the 90's these Japanese cars were manufactured in Japan. Another factor that didn't help was the lack of Japanese cars in the rental car fleets. Those cars get dogged out for about a year (in most cases) and are put in consumers' hands. The first 20-30,000 miles were hell with a strong lack in maintenance.
With all this in mind, move forward. Ford and GM got the idea around the years 1998-2002 with new line-ups. These line-ups have been pretty good for the most part. The problems that these cars did have were ones that they all had. It could be expected and repaired. Rarely burning up engines and transmission. (Notice that I'm not speaking about Chrysler Corp.) Examples: Chevy full size trucks and SUV's, don't change your fuel filter and you'll buy a fuel pump (hell, you might buy one anyway); Have an Impala, Grand Am, Malibu, or any other dashboard key ignition, plan to buy a lock cylinder and have it programmed. If you have GM 3.1L or 3.4L plan to buy intake gaskets. Right now Ford has been on top over and over in vehicles with initial quality.
Now go to Toyota and Honda (not Nissan; I consider them to be like current American cars, not bad, never been awesome). Toyota ads say to look at their legendary reliablity. That legend was over about 1997-1999. I've see and have replaced several Toyota 4 cylinder engines 1999 and up. These engines can be found in Corolla's, Matrix's, and yes, Pontiac Vibe's, Chevy Prizm's, Chevy HHR (I think), and others. I've seen Camry's (and Maxima's) making engine noises that I didn't even want to entertain long enough to find out (sounded like oil pumps, even the older ones had that problem), and other really unexpected (not Toyota-like) problems. What did Honda in with me besides the tranny and ignition switch and wheel bearing and A/C compressor and other problems was a motor burning up on me recently. It was in a 1998 Honda Civic. It had all maintenance records including new timing belt, A/C compressor, water pump, radiator, oil changes, and so forth and had 120k miles at the time. With no signs of over-heating or lack of lube or abuse of any kind, the motor lost compression on 3 cylinders out of nowhere. Just like that, motor bad. I and 2 other mechanic crews threw all my books on the floor and flipped the car upside-down trying to figure it out.
Back to the point, just like you can't get a good old M.B. 240D or 300D, you can't get an old-school Camry or Corolla. You can only buy those used.
Do everybody a favor if buying new, buy American.